European Open in Agility

I signed Sookie up for the European Open (EO) in Agility but as we are yet quite inexperienced I didn’t put my hopes up for being selected to represent Denmark. But at the last selection Sookie had a superb run and we came in third in the class and hereby we got selected 🙂

Sookie has just only recently qualified to run in agility class 3 so we are quite inexperienced in running the more complex and challenging classes. I was so looking forward to the EO – not that I had high expectations of how we could do but I would meet many of my agility friends from abroad 🙂

I was staying at a camping site nearby the EO venue where Channie and I were staying in a little cottage. As I didn’t know if other dogs were allowed at the EO venue or if it was possible to walk the dogs (and dogs could run free) I decided not to bring Vini and Rikke was looking after Vini – so Sookie and I had some quality time 😉

Friday the dogs were firstly to be examined by a vet and later we could train a few minutes on a course so the dogs could get acquainted with the artificial turf and the obstacles. Sookie had a good grip on the turf and I as well 🙂 Having running contacts, I have started to check the dogwalks – it looked a little bit bouncy and the bouncy dogwalks Sookie usually are having problems hitting the contact – but this one was not that bouncy when Sookie was running on it – I could see she had a good grip and I have never before seen her having such great contacts with such good hind feet separation as she had. So nothing to worry about! Not before I saw some of the Danish dogs reacting strongly on the tyre – they didn’t want to jump through it 😮 Then I regretted I had only asked Sookie to take it once – but at the time I was training didn’t think of it being an issue as Sookie just generalized and recognized a ring and that she is to jump through – no matter if it’s black or white 😉

Agility Large EO 2012

Agility Large EO 2012

Saturday we had to be at the venue already at 7:00 AM – that’s early for me 😉 I wasn’t nervous at all – I think it was due to I didn’t expect we could run the courses without faults (or being eliminated). My first run was a Jumping course. When I saw the course I got excited as I thought we could actually get through this course clean 🙂 Getting ready to start – I was not at all nervous but fully focused and focused on not disconnecting with Sookie prior to the start.
I started Sookie and after the weaves I’m a bit too late to recall Sookie and she anticipates running to the tunnel…. but I just thought: “bummer.. and now get engaged with Sookie again!” I continued from here without thinking about we got eliminated but reacted as we just had started the run – the rest of the course went pretty well – I was sooo happy afterwards. I felt really good to be so engaged with one another 🙂

Later I was to run the agility course. I thought the course was very difficult and the only way I could envisage handling Sookie at the beginning of the course included me doing a rear cross behind the teeter – and that I had never done before (yeah, something that I’ve unintentionally left out from our training program :-o). I decided that I was to do the rear cross behind the teeter without knowing how Sookie would react – I didn’t want to play it safe! If she could take the teeter and meet the criteria then it was fantastic but if she couldn’t then it was just too bad. Same for how I had planned I would handle her to the weave poles.

A few dogs prior to my starting number I focused on getting engaged with Sookie and goal was to get through the course without disconnecting. I was not nervous at all. I just started Sookie and knew I had to run as fast as I could and trust that Sookie could do everything I asked her to do. No problem changing side behind the teeter – I could see she turned her head but I was fast enough to change side so she continued 🙂 At the weave poles I ran towards it while I was commanding her to weave and I was changing side when she was weaving – she did it! 🙂 Sookie doesn’t master the 180 degree turns on dogwalk fully but I had decided to handle her like she could – and fortunately there was a tunnel just after the dogwalk and she was drawn towards it – hence, she hit the contact and turned just after the dogwalk. I hesitated running when she was nearing the tyre – and because I stopped running she thought she was to go into the wrong entrance of the tunnel.. but fortunately I got her directed to the right entry – and surprisingly: a clean run 😀 Please don’t ask for the video – I had forgotten to delete the recordings from the Daisy Peel seminar and the memory card was full 🙁

I was thrilled about the agility run – what was most important to me was that Sookie and I were completely engaged with one another and the teamwork was in top. I never pay attention to the time, and especially not at a big event like EO where many of the world’s best dogs are present. I was told that Sookie was in top 10 and I went to see the results (they were online and updated after each dog had run). About 300 dogs had run and Sookie was placed as number 14 – but 70 more dogs to go. The top 25 dogs are all qualified for the Finals and I was so surprised and got very excited about the possibility that Sookie could make it to the Finals. I couldn’t watch more dogs run – it was simply too exciting. I took Sookie out for a long walk and I calmed down 🙂

I couldn’t get myself to check the result. When they were setting up the finals course for the small dogs, Christine and I went to view the result – I didn’t look, Christine told me that Sookie came in on a 24th place – of about 370 dogs!! Wauw, my amazing little star, Sookie, was to run the finals! Woohooo 😀
It got later and later and when large dogs were to run the finals it was 10:00 PM. I was sooo tired – and Sookie too. I had decided that I would push Sookie to know how she reacts when there were so many spectators around the ring and if she could yet meet the criterias.

Unfortunately we already at the third obstacle got a refusal and I decided that I would push Sookie to the limit and test her. All her contacts were spot on – even the dogwalk. I got so surprised when she came in between two jumps where she wasn’t supposed to – this is usually a challenge to get her to come between. I decided not to correct it but just continue. I was so pleased that I could push her both verbally and with my body language when she was weaving and yet she completed weaving and with full speed. It wasn’t a nice run as we got eliminated like four times but I was really happy about the run. Why? Because you never get to run at a venue like this at other competitions – and I found it important to know if Sookie could handle the pressure and yet meet the criterias – and she could! Next year we will be more experienced and I now know that I can put maximum pressure on her 🙂

I really had a great time at the EO – it was so nice to meet agility friends from I’ve met in other countries and especially friends from the Lolabuland camps and lastly get to meet other agility freaks from around the world. And it was also great staying with Channie as she is as positive as I am and the dogs get along very well. It was really a great experience for us and hopefully we can qualify for the EO next year!